Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The 46th president of the United States has been inaugurated and begun his programme for the first 100 days in office. The new president needs our prayers as he seeks to bring healing and reconciliation to a divided nation.
The 45th president, in a break with convention, refused to attend the inauguration which is the symbolic expression of the peaceful transfer of power and has retreated to his estate in Florida. What his future holds is by no means clear. He must face the impeachment which is a result of his incitement of people to storm the Capitol building. Whether he plans to try and stay in public and political life is unknown.
It was disturbing to see people carrying banners proclaiming "Jesus Saves" while forcing their way into the Capitol. How could they end up in that place? There are some principles that are rooted in Scripture and the ministry of Jesus that we and they would do well to remember.
Justice and righteousness go together. The prayer for leaders found in Psalm 72 begins with the words "Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son." They are a reminder that character, integrity and standards in public life matter. When those things were lost the prophet Amos cried out "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Accountability is essential. Speaking truth to power can be costly, we know that from a long line of prophets and from Jesus' ministry. He knew that leaders, religious and political, who are given free reign and avoid answering questions or accounting for their actions are dangerous. They create a culture where bullying and dodgy dealing become acceptable.
Truth matters. Spreading false stories, denying truth by calling it "fake news" and airbrushing out the difficult bits of our history does nothing to bring people together, instead it creates a climate of suspicion and fear. Jesus said to some of his followers, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32)
The Bible does not give ready answers to the complex political challenges of our times. What we have from Jesus is a vision of God's rule, where grace and mercy are at the heart of everything. This calls for a particular kind of leadership that demands courage. Jesus' vision points us towards the need for economic and political programmes that give special attention to those who are vulnerable and marginalised, which is summed up in the call to love our neighbour. Maybe it is as simple and as complex as doing what is good for other people and doing what is good for the planet.
With every blessing,
Revd John Hellyer